By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) It was déjà vu all over again on Sunday for the Bears.
The Packers win the toss and march (no, really fly) 80 yards in eight plays, with five first downs, and, of course, seven points. Go ahead and blame the defense if you must for coming out flat and unprepared, blame the offense if you’d like for being perpetually inept.
I’ll blame the general manager.
Certainly, I can’t be the only one who wonders why Jerry Angelo is still calling the shots for the Bears. It’s not like he’s new to this job; his tenure pre-dates the iPod. What exactly has Angelo done to make him the fifth most tenured GM in the league? The answer to that question is a mystery, as his hits are greatly outweighed by his misses. Let’s look at the facts.
Angelo maintains the Bears have a “draft-driven” philosophy to building their roster. Yet the numbers tell a different story. In his ten years on the job, Angelo:
* has never drafted a Pro-Bowl offensive player;
* has not drafted a Pro-Bowl position player since 2004 (making the Bears one of 10 teams in the NFL to carry this distinction);
* drafted a mere three offensive lineman from 2003 through 2006 (one sixth and two seventh round afterthoughts, none of which are currently on the roster);
* filled only three current roster spots from the 30 draft selections made from 2004 through 2007; and
* generated a grand total of one current starter (left guard – and bust – Chris Williams) from eight first-round draft picks.
That is just a small sample of the personnel-decision failures. Bear fans surely don’t need to be reminded of the fact that Troy Polamalu was selected two spots after Michael Haynes, or that Vincent Jackson was selected 22 spots after Mark Bradley, or that….okay, I’ll stop.
Even Angelo’s greatest success, acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler, has also been his biggest failure. Angelo went out and made the bold move to acquire a quarterback with elite talent, yet he’s done nothing – nada – to protect and maximize the return on this investment. The Bears line up every week with a rag-tag group of offensive lineman who provide porous protection, and third-rate receivers who can’t create separation from defenders or catch the ball when it’s thrown to them.
Angelo must be held accountable.
Angelo claimed after watching quarterback Jay Cutler get battered in New Orleans: “We did everything you could possibly do to that [offensive line] position. Nobody did more than the Chicago Bears.” You heard right. Angelo and the Bears did “everything.” Here is what everything means in this context: drafting Gabe Carimi in the first-round and picking up free-agent Chris Spencer – who was a knee-jerk reaction to the failed negotiations with former Bear Olin Kreutz. When did everything become a synonym for next-to-nothing?
What could Jerry Angelo have done if he really meant to do “everything,” and then went out and actually did it? Recall that this past off-season featured an unprecedented 667 free-agents. And further recall that the Bears were armed with ample salary cap space – reportedly $34M – to make multiple moves to bolster an offensive line that surrendered a league-high 56 sacks last season.
If the Bears had truly done everything – or at least more than the next-to-nothing they did do – to improve the offensive line, they could line up this Sunday with some or all of the following free-agents: Jermon Bushrod, Davin Joseph, David Baas, Harvey Dahl, and Matt Light. Might that line be providing Jay Cutler with just a bit more protection?
Giving Cutler time to throw a pass would be a step in the right direction, but how about giving Cutler some talent to catch his passes? Caving to Devin Hester’s contract demands back in 2008 and paying him like a number one wide receiver, doesn’t make Devin Hester a No. 1 wide receiver, yet that’s what Angelo tried to sell us on.
When your quarterback looks to an undrafted, rookie free-agent, Dane Sanzenbacher, as a go-to guy in the red zone, that is a complete indictment of talent evaluation. And when your big off-season additions are a washed-up first-round bust, Roy Williams, and a special teams gunner, Sam Hurd, you’re clearly in denial about the talent-level of the current wide receiver corps.
What’s really sad here – and, for Bears’ fans, tragic – is that Angelo’s inability to bring in offensive talent capable of competing on Sundays has wasted the prime years of Super Bowl-caliber defenses and special teams. Angelo spent much of his tenure with the Bears trying to assemble his own version of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that played smothering defense, and did just enough on offense to eek out a win.
The Bears offense has ranked better than 26th in total offense just once in ten years under Angelo, in 2006 when they were 16th. Meanwhile, the defense has finished in the top 10 three times, and Devin Hester has established himself as the greatest kick returner in NFL history, providing envious field position that other teams would surely capitalize on.
The NFL has experienced a fundamental shift to a passing league during Angelo’s tenure. Per usual, the Bears were late to the game, and their solution was to bring in offensive coordinator Mike Martz. This hiring, to borrow an Angelo-ism, was a square peg in a round hole.
The Bears don’t have the blockers, receivers, or the quarterback with robot-like mechanics to sit in the pocket and wait for slow-developing pass routes to effectively run Martz’s scheme. So while Tom Brady is on pace to throw for 7,077 yards, the Bears are on pace to give up 75 sacks.
This slow-to-evolve approach makes Jerry Angelo a lot like a fax machine. While the rest of the NFL elite operates in a digital age of multi-function machines that can scan and email at dizzying speeds, the Bears rely on antiquated technology that is near obsolete, and wonder why their weekend match-ups end up stalled like a paper jam.
Ten years is a large enough body of work to realize that Jerry Angelo’s stewardship simply hasn’t and isn’t working for the Chicago Bears. And until you can add “former” to Angelo’s current general manager’s title, it will be more of the same for the Bears. Miring in mediocrity, catching a lucky streak here and there, only to fall short in the end.
Oh, by the way, Jerry Angelo is signed through 2013, and his likely successor, Tim Ruskell, is already a part of the Bears’ front office. So, odds are it will be déjà vu all over again in 2012.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.